Just had a new essay, “White Light” published by Vol. 1 Brooklyn. Read on Vol. 1 Brooklyn site here
by Justin Maurer
White light, white light goin’ messin’ up my mind
White light, and don’t you know its gonna make me go blind
White heat, aww white heat it tickle me down to my toes
White light, ooo have mercy white light have it goodness knows
-Velvet Underground, “White Light/White Heat”
Most people like ghost stories, but I don’t. They scare me. I don’t like to think about ghosts or demons because I know they are real. Sometimes even watching a TV program about them, I think that I’d better stop watching because a portal to hell could open and the demons that plagued me in the past could come back and harass me. I have been unable to write this story for 15 years, but now I think I am strong enough to write this and strong enough to keep them at bay.
When I was 18 years old I played in a punk rock band. We did stupid things like getting drunk and getting naked. As a frequently wild and unbridled lead singer, onstage I was the most naked of all. After we graduated high school we pooled our money and bought a van. We split our podunk small town and hit the open road. We drank vodka out of the bottle, slept on top of our van, and shook scorpions out of our shoes. By the end of our U.S. tour we felt invincible, and our live set involved quite a bit of provocation, nudity, and screeching guitar feedback from our guitarist Devon’s off-brand pawn shop guitar (aka “Framus”).
The last date of our tour was an all ages venue on the wealthy and uptight Eastside of Seattle, near Microsoft headquarters. Our chaotic set didn’t go down well with the team of big-necked security guards. There were a few adult chaperones in the audience. One particularly uneasy mother of a 14-year-old concert attendee called the cops on us. The 14-year-old girl’s mom pressed charges (indecent exposure) and I was summoned to court for a felony charge.
I didn’t take the court summons seriously and helped my mom, a school teacher, move to New York City where she had received a small scholarship towards her Master’s degree. We drove across the country, and I loved it every time “Ramblin’ Man” by the Allman Brothers Band came on the radio–about 3 or 4 times a day. My brother and I drove the U-Haul and my mom and sister drove in my mom’s Jeep. The Jeep would often swerve violently as my mother and sister vehemently argued in sign language, hands off the wheel, and my sister would pull the car over, throw the door open and kick the dirt. My brother and I laughed and were glad we weren’t in the other car.
I was having a hard time landing a job in New York and was handing out resumes across the city. Some guy at the 121st Street and Broadway subway station told me not to take the train downtown. He told me to go home and turn on the TV. The burning buildings were on every channel. The whole world was changing.
New York became a dead city. Everything stopped, including the U.S. Mail. One month later I received a warrant for my arrest that was forwarded from our address in Washington State. I had missed my court date for the naked thing. I got a job waiting tables at a restaurant on 110th Street and Broadway and the owners ripped me off. They paid me $80 cash for working full time for a week. They kept my tips and didn’t call me in for any other shifts.
I decided to head back to Seattle to face up to the felony charge. I went back to Bainbridge Island where I had gone to high school. All of my friends had gone to college or moved away. There were a few younger kids I was friends with including two twin sisters named Cora and Penny. I had dated Cora briefly in high school. Something clicked and I started dating Penny. She had wild hair, wild eyes and a wonderful laugh, the kind where she would throw back her head and roar. I found Penny to be quite a rambunctious creature and I liked her very much.
One day my friend Devon and I stopped by their house. They lived with their single mom who was an interior designer and always let us eat their food and hang out and play guitars. The twins would often choreograph dance moves to “Crimson and Clover.”
We knocked on the door, and Penny answered looking very surprised. She held her finger to her lips and beckoned for us to follow her inside. In their living room a man lay reclined on a couch. A woman sat above him. He spoke in voices. The voices coming out of his mouth were not his own. A gaggle of new age ladies with crystal necklaces and hippie dresses sat cross legged on the floor and hung onto every word. When Devon and I came into the room a strange voice spoke through his mouth.
“Do you have any questions for us?”
The new age women smiled and encouraged me to ask some questions. The voices went through every detail of my life. They described my personality, my trials, and my tribulations in disconcerting detail. Their answers to my questions were spot on, as if these spirits knew who I was and as if they knew the internal turmoil that I was going through.
After my questions, the woman counted back from 10 and with every number the man convulsed as if spirits were leaving his body. After the number 1, the man sat up and rubbed his eyes, speaking in his own voice.
“Ah, some newcomers! How y’all doin?”
He spoke simply like a man born in the country. He sounded nothing like the spirits that were using his body to channel their energy and spoke in stilted yet articulate voices.
After I came home from my experience with the channel, I started seeing apparitions. The black beasts swam above me like underwater sea creatures. These sinister eels writhed through midair with their tails. They had no faces. They would fly by my car, my bed, they would stop and stare directly into my soul, chilling me to my bones.
One day Penny and I were driving my red 1982 Chevy on a dark winter night. One of these demonic salamanders floated in front of my windshield and stared at us menacingly before continuing along its way.
“Did you see that,” I asked Penny.
“Oh yeah, we see them all the time.”
Living in the house where a new age cult was paying this man to channel these demons posing as angels, Penny and her sister Cora lived with these apparitions. To them, it was normal.
Soon they were everywhere. They scurried on the floor, they watched me as I showered, they hovered over my bed and I couldn’t sleep. I contemplated suicide to get away from them.
To keep them at bay I would sing and play Muddy Waters and Lightnin’ Hopkins songs.
“GYPSY WOMAN TOLD MY MOTHER/BEFORE I WAS BORN/YOU GOT A BOY CHILD COMIN’/GONNA BE A SON OF A GUN…”
I would scream these songs and they wouldn’t bother me as I sang them. Otherwise, they were always there watching me, following me, torturing me.
I found out that the man posing as a channel for these demonic spirits had left town. It made me feel a little better.I stopped by the twins’ house to play some guitar and goof around. I sat on their couch playing their acoustic guitar and one of them said,
“Oh my God! Mom! Come here… Mom!”
Their mother came in the room and said, “Oh my God. Justin, sit up for a second.”
I stood up and one of the twins reached underneath the couch cushion where I was sitting. She handed me a folded up piece of notebook paper and asked me to read it.
“Request a date of your new channel: October 13th.
Request a time your new channel will appear: 2:30pm.
On this date and time your new channel will sit here. May white light be with you.”
It was discussed that I should travel to Ashland, Oregon where their old channel was living in a hotel room. They told me that if I was the new channel I could earn lots of money as there were plenty of people who wanted to ask these spirits questions. They told me that their mom had a religious group called White Light and they were working on a book that would lead the people of the world to a new truth and a lasting peace. Their old channel had left town and the book wasn’t finished and they needed me to learn how to channel the spirits so that they could finish their book.
This was a lot for me to hear. Around this time, the haunting from the apparitions rose to manic proportions. The little demon creatures would crawl all over me and I was being suffocated by them. One night I heard a boom like a thunder clap. I sat up in my bed and there was a blinding light coming from the bedroom door, it looked like a portal to heaven.
A deep commanding voice spoke, like the voice of God and he said, “Choose a door!”
To the left was a simple wooden door, the kind you would find on a log cabin in the forest. To the right was a bright sparkly door like one you would see on a game show.
“The door on the right is if you become a channel. The door on the left is if you decide not to. Choose wisely”
The bright lights left the room. I thought about Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade and remembered that the right choice was the simple wooden cup. The other choice meant instant painful death.
I drove to Ashland, Oregon with the twin sisters and their mom. We went up a flight of stairs and met the channel and his wife in their motel room. He told us that on the morning of 9/11 the spirits woke him up and told him that this country’s false economy would fall.
He went into his trance led by his wife who counted down from 10. When she got to 1, the stilted yet articulate voices of the demon spirits spoke through the man.
“Do you have any questions for us,” they said.
“Should I become the new channel,” I said.
“If you open that door, it shall never be closed again,” they said.
At that point I knew I didn’t want to be the channel.
We drove from Ashland, Oregon back up to Bainbridge Island, Washington. I told the twins and their mother that I wasn’t going to be the channel. I got a letter in the mail that asked if I wanted to move to San Francisco to play in a punk rock band. I wrote back yes.
My nudity trial took some strange turns, my pregnant public defender didn’t show up most of the time, and so the case was often delayed and extended. Then it was finally over. I was guilty of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor charge. After community service hours were served and a fine paid, I moved from town to town: Oakland, Portland, Madrid, London, L.A. Every once in a while I wake from sleep and find myself staring into the shadows of my bedroom and I start to see a slithery creature writhing across the floor. So I look away.